The Probation Officer Interview

Not enough people consider work as a probation officer. It might be time consuming, mis-understood and under resourced, but probation jobs are some of the most rewarding available in the criminal justice system.

Probation officers are close in function to social workers: they work with prisoners placed under probation orders to build a healthy, functional routine, ensure they meet the terms of their probation order (often these revolve around avoiding public disorder, drunkenness or locations associated with their offense), and connect them with resources to support them, like addiction treatment and mental health services. A chance to build a life away from crime is doomed to failure if the person is trying to survive a severe untreated mental health disorder, or doesn’t have any experience filling in job application forms!

There’s some specialised training involved before you can apply for probation officer jobs – you need qualifications equivalent to degree level to apply for most probation officer certification, though more flexible routes do exist to help people into the profession when they have relevant experience and skills but not an academic background.

Once qualified, you have to apply, and make it through a job interview. Though the demand for probation officers is unceasing – a good probation officer can lift the burden on an overstretched prison and help someone build a life as a law abiding citizen – the consequences for a unsuitable one slipping through the net could be counted in lives, as well as confidence lost in the justice system, and resources wasted.

This means that it’s well worth preparing for your job interview – you’re going to be under stringent examination. It’s not just that you need to prove yourself, it’s that probation officers spend their professional lives in high pressure interview situations: you need to show you’re able to conduct yourself professionally when you’re the one on the other side of the table.

Make sure you’re prepared. Research the service, prison or local authority you’re interviewing with. Look at the priorities they have and the challenges they are facing – and then make sure you’re ready to furnish the panel with examples from your own life, training and career that show you have met similar challenges, and are energised by those same priorities.

Always be ready with specific examples from your past life – talk about the specific actions you undertook, from identifying an issue, to planning your response, to putting it into action and how you judged the results. That specificity will see you through your probation job interview with confidence.

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